Friday, October 2, 2015

SilverRudder Challenge Report

J/80 women skipper- sailing Silverrudder Challenge (Svendborg, Denmark)- The singlehanded sailing event, the Silverrudder Challenge of the Sea, started in 2012 and has gone from being a national Danish event with 15 entries to become an international event where 330 skippers from nine nationalities compete.

“The event is no longer only Danish. This year it has for real gone into international waters. I have just been to Croatia, where I attended another singlehanded sailing event and down there all know about Silverrudder Challenge. The same goes for Germany, where it has become talk of the town which is clearly reflected in this year's list of participants. Here the group of German participants is the greatest,” says the man behind the event BådNyts editor Morten Brandt.

Silverrudder Challenge in numbers
The largest group is the German sailors, with 163 entries. Then comes the Danes, with 141 sailors. The next major group is the Swedish sailors who entered 15 teams.   The next biggest group, surprisingly, are the five skippers from Slovenia!

A detailed analysis of the entries shows that it primarily consist of recreational sailors, a pattern that highly comparable to the crowds that enjoy marathon running and Ironman triathlon.

Silverrudder Challenge course- Island of Funen off DenmarkAccording to BådNyts’ Brandt, “From the beginning, my aim was to make a kind of extreme sport for skilled recreational sailors. An event in adventure-racing style, where the participants get close to their own boundaries, which was new in a Northern European context at that time. Participants leave their comfort zone to go into a zone where it's all about coping with the situation and the elements in the best possible way by demonstrating good seamanship. We also made the rules very simple and abolished the hypothetical measurement rules. The course has only two marks that have to be respected - the marks that constitute the starting and finishing line. This means that it has again become a challenge to navigate the boat safe and fast!”

The event even brought good-natured competition in the Keelboat Large-class; it featured a duel between two of Europe's dominant yards- X-Yachts and Dehler Yachts. During the European Yacht of the Year prize-giving party at the BOOT Dusseldorf boat show in January, the CEO of the German Dehler Yachts, Karl Dehler, made a direct challenge to the Danish yard X-Yachts, who accepted the duel a month later. Karl Dehler in his Dehler-38 will himself face Torsten Bastiansen from X-Yachts in his XP-38.  More on that outcome shortly.

The Silverrudder Challenge is a 134nm singlehanded race around the Danish island of Funen, it is really a navigational and tactical challenge since the channels are narrow and the wind is often shifty and full of massive holes.  BådNyts magazine is the promotional partner and the local yacht club, Svendborg Amateur Sailing Club, provides the logistics and support.

According the J/111 BLUR skipper, Peter Gustafsson, “it's hard to pinpoint what it is that makes Silverrudder so attractive for all types of sailors.  At one end, we have the "factory drivers" (or lap owners) from Dehler, Dragonfly, Elvstrøm, Kolhoff, Seascape, X-yachts and many others. We have Olympic medalists. We have serious amateurs who typically perform well with a full crew. We have dedicated solo sailors in specially built Minis or open-boats.  At the other end, we have experienced sailors and ordinary sailors that have not raced in many years (but which may be cruising solo during the summer months).  The youngest participant was 19 years. The oldest was 81 yrs old.  In short, a spectrum that spans our whole sport.

Most importantly, the organizers have been careful to address all sailors.  Everyone can find their own challenge, whether it is pursuing, beating a teammate, or going home with a Silverrudder. Everyone has their own reasons to sail around Funen. Everyone can find their "fight to fight". And, all harbor enormous respect for each other, since it is an enormous accomplishment to just take your boat 134 nautical miles around Funen.”

Gustafsson goes on to say, “the objectives this year are more difficult, especially because of the weather forecast.  Last year it was easy. The goal was to get around in a good way. That my J/111 BLUR was the fastest monohull round was a bonus. Plus, it was completely unexpected and fun!

This year, if the wind blows more that forecast, there are some big trade-offs. Plus, I will be competing against bigger boats that will do well in a bigger breeze.  The biggest trade-off is to first, be safe, and second, to sail conservatively. I think it is possible to beat the course record of 19:20:27 that I set last year, we’ll see!  That would mean 7 kts average, which is not at all impossible.

I think I will try to sail the boat as close to 100% as it will go until it gets dark. Conservative choices and low risk are needed to keep all options open. Then, facing the longer “ocean” leg on the north/eastern side of Funen, an assessment on the status board and how it looks in fleet and determine how hard to push at the time.  In any event, it should fun as hell and a real challenge- as always!!”

It turns out that after 20 hours of sailing, Peter’s prediction was not that far off.  First, the record was broken by Andreas Rhode on Ratzfatz3, in the time of 19:02:16, just under 18 minutes faster than Peter’s 2015 time on his J/111 BLUR.  While Peter was hoping to repeat his performance from last year, winning both class and overall, the conditions were less favorable for that to happen.  However, a shift here and a shift there and Peter could not hold off his competition.  It’s a challenging race and the J/111 BLUR managed to finish 4th in the Keelboat Large Class, completing the circumnavigation in 20:05:08, about a 6.7 kts average.

Behind Peter, the J/109 JONA sailed by Jochen Rieker, took a total of 23:28:39 to finish 21st in class and overall (330 boats!).  Remember that duel taking place between the Dehler and X-Yachts yards?? Well, Karl Dehler sailed his Dehler 38 to 6th in class, 35 minutes behind Peter’s J/111.  And, both beat Andreas Wulfes sailing the XP-38 that took 13th overall, 2:21:00 further behind.

J/80 women sailor- Silverrudder ChallengeBadnytt editors talked with the youngest sailor in the race, the 18 yr old woman skipper- Helle Jespersen- who hoped to make it around on her borrowed J/80 One-design class sailboat.  Morten Brandt spoke to her shortly after she missed her attempt to participate in this years Silverrudder Challenge. It was a disappointed, but still cheerful Helle who came into the harbour.

According to Brandt, “While we where waiting for the crane to get her small J/80 boat out of the water, she explained what went wrong. It all started with a hectic morning, everything took a little longer than she had expected and she was stressed.”
Brandt: “Well, Helle, please tell us what happened?”
Helle: “I had a hectic start and I didn’t really have enough time to come up to the start in good time, I had a Code Zero sail hanging wrong and problems with the mainsail, but I still made it to the starting point. There were five boats at the northern tip of Tåsinge in Svendborgssund and the boat in front of me hit the sand bed, and a second later I did the same! Aaaggh!”
Brandt: “What did you think about at that point?”
Helle: “There where a lot of thoughts going through my head at that point, but I thought that I had to make sure I got the boat heeled, so I could get away from the sand bed, I was thinking that I simply would not give up, I just hadn’t seen it coming!”
Brandt: “How did you get your boat out?”
Helle: “I was lying there almost an hour before a motorboat came up to me and helped me, the only thing I was thinking there was that I had to get the boat back without any damage, because it’s a boat that I have borrowed, luckily there weren’t any critical damages.  It has been painful for my inner pride to give up because of such a stupid thing, but now I look forward to the next time I get the chance to participate! Meanwhile, I will come back for the party on Saturday. And, I am sending now good thoughts off to all my friends out on the water!!”

Brandt goes on to say, “This year’s Silverrudder went according to plan.  However, there was- unfortunately for some of the sailors- quite shallow water in the starting area.  So, many boats grounded close to the Circle harbour.

The wind was a challenge for most sailors, until they reached the Lillebælt, where it calmed down. Despite the relatively weak wind Saturday, there was no wind, like the two previous years.

For most sailors the wind has been good and we have had remarkably few accidents. Many others came off the seabed safely, all by themselves.

On behalf of BådNyt, I whish to thank all participants, sponsors, partners, associates and friends of BådNyt and Silverrudder Challenge of the Sea.

This year's event was a great success, and there was plenty of positive mood and energy Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the harbor, at sea and in the Meeting Point as the town of Svendborg had made available for the event.

The event is unparalleled and more die hard sailors from both Denmark and abroad dropped by to talk about their experiences and about Silverrudder Challenge as among the best if not the best sailing experience they have ever attended. We hope that the cooperation with Ole and Per Ingemann and all the other volunteers from Svendborg Amatørsejlklub will continue in 2016 so the event once again will set new standards for how a sailing event is held.  I hope to see you all back in 2016!  Fair winds, Morten Brandt.”   For more Silverrudder Challenge sailing information